76 percent of colleges struggle to meet bandwidth demands

At the start of the semester, students haul more than books, clothes and furniture to campus. They bring a slew of bandwidth-sucking devices with them, Mashable reports. The largest bandwidth-consuming devices used by students include tablets, smartphones, iPods, gaming consoles and e-readers. On campus, about 41% of students will have three or more devices connected to the Internet at one time. That’s a problem for the 76.4% of institutions looking to reinforce their networks to support more devices. As college-aged students rely on an expanded arsenal of web-connected gadgets, schools face an unprecedented growth of network bandwidth consumption. Will campuses be ready for incoming data-hungry residents?

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Tech experts, educators see massive online learning shift by 2020

Three in four Americans say college is too expensive.

Higher education’s economics are unsustainable and vulnerable to technologies that could make college campuses the hub of the privileged few, according to a vast collection of opinions from international technologists and educators.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center recently asked more than 1,000 digital learning experts to weigh two drastically different scenarios for how higher education would look in 2020.

About four in 10 survey respondents said there would be “modest” changes in the way college is taught and paid for over the next eight years, and six in 10 expected a fundamental shift in the use of web-based technologies to upturn the current campus order, lowering costs, making education more accessible, and, in some cases, lowering standards.

The transition to classroom technologies – cloud-based learning, eBooks, and video-based lecture halls – will take hold when the cost of a college degree no longer makes sense as a viable investment, experts said. Pew research from 2011 showed that 75 percent of adults say college is too expensive for most Americans, and more than half said a college education isn’t a “good value.”

Peter Pinch, director of technology for WGBH, a public media company, said in the Pew survey that by 2020, colleges and universities will have rid campuses of traditionally large lecture halls, instead focusing on “high-value face-to-face interactions” online and in person.

“As communications technologies improve and we learn how to use them better, the requirement for people to meet face-to-face for effective teaching and learning will diminish,” Pinch said. “Some institutions will focus on facilitating virtual environments and may lose any physical aspect.”

Online learning will become the norm, experts said, when the current system is seen as antiquated. The realization that students are taking on decades of student debt to earn a degree that does not assure them of a job in a lackluster economy will lead to a worldwide shift in how higher education is perceived.

“The age of brick-and-mortar dinosaur schools is about to burst—another bubble ready to pop. The price is too high; it’s grossly inflated and the return on investment isn’t there. Online learning will be in the ascendant,” an anonymous respondent said in the survey. “There will be more international interactions; I believe we will see somewhat of a return to a Socratic model of single sage to self-selecting student group, but instead of the Acropolis, the site will be the Internet, and the students will be from everywhere.”

Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center at the University of California (UC) Irvine, said incorporating more technology into classroom learning wouldn’t, by itself, change the way colleges and universities operate.


The biggest problem with San Francisco’s largest university

The accreditation commission that has threatened to sanction City College of San Francisco has cited the fact that 92 percent of the college’s spending goes to salaries and benefits as a main factor in its financial problems – and community college district officials attribute the high percentage to a history of generous pay and benefits for employees, including faculty, staff and administrators, California Watch reports. While higher education observers say many community college districts have scaled back benefits for retirees in the last 20 years, City College has not, for the most part. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office does not track districts’ spending on salaries and benefits as a percentage of total expenditures in a way that is easily compared, making it difficult to say where City College’s spending ranks.

“This analysis is something we don’t do and have not done before because it is an area we don’t administer or regulate,” Fred Harris, assistant vice chancellor of college finance and facilities planning for the chancellor’s office, said in an email…

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Jumping off the college track

Noor Siddiqui doesn’t want to go to college yet. She seems the very model of a college-bound student. The Clifton resident graduated from Robinson Secondary School in June with a stellar grade-point average of 4.5, the Washington Post. She helped start a nonprofit organization that coordinates fundraisers and volunteers with various charities, as well as a scholarship for Afghan girls that funds schooling for a 13-year-old in a Kabul suburb. For three years, 50 percent of the evaluations of many D.C. public school teachers were based on students’ standardized test scores, a key part of the IMPACT assessment system introduced by Michelle Rhee. Her successor has decided 50 percent is too much and 35 percent is better. Is it really? The federally funded program generates debate among city leaders and those on Capitol Hill. Siddiqui, 18, was accepted to several universities. But she turned them all down. Siddiqui is a Thiel Fellow…

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Anatomy of a campus construction project

UA has spent more than $600 million on construction projects since 1999.

The days of bond-funded campus buildings and two-dimensional architectural drawings are drawing to a close at many public universities. The money, for now, is available through public-private partnerships, and plans are made in three dimensions, making for an easier sell to top decision makers.

Campus construction, particularly residence halls, starts with projections meant to keep a college or university years—sometimes decades—ahead of student demand. Those projections, once passed along the campus’s chain of command, tell the mathematical story: We’ll need more dorms, or we won’t.

That’s how it started at the University of Akron (UA), a 220-acre campus with 29,000 students.

In 1999, with only 1,000 beds on campus, the university’s housing officials projected that the school soon would need several times the student capacity, as thousands of students were living in nearby neighborhoods, condos, and apartments. It had been two decades since UA completed its last residence hall. Demand for on-campus housing, officials said, was about to crest.

Since then, the university has spent $626 million on 21 campus buildings, including three residence halls, creating 2,400 new beds for incoming students. UA’s goal is to have 5,000 beds available by 2020.

For more campus construction news, see:

‘Building Excellence’ section of eCampus News Online

Here’s the story behind UA’s latest residence hall, called South Hall, including how it was funded, designed, built, and filled—and how creative financing and cutting-edge technology helped the school come in under budget.

Funding in a rough economy

After projections are finalized and campus officials decide on the number of beds needed and the approximate cost of construction, funding must be secured.

Until the economic collapse of 2008, UA funded construction projects through bond initiatives that had to be approved by voters. Public schools and universities have long relied on these low-interest bonds, but as Ted Curtis, the university’s vice president for capital planning and facilities management, found out, the era of publicly funded construction might have come to a close.

Instead of pursuing the money through bonds, UA funded South Hall—scheduled to open for the fall semester—through a public-private partnership, an increasingly common strategy in higher education as state funding stagnates in a sluggish economic recovery.

Using private funding, however, changed the dynamics of UA’s newest residence hall. The university provided the land to build on, agreed to manage it upon completion, and will make lease payments thereafter. The private financiers dole out the cash to build the hall. Therefore, they own it.


Prof.’s email reveals shooting plot

A California university professor who was arrested on arson charges wrote in an email that he was thinking of getting a dozen machine guns and shooting at least 200 students at his late son’s high school, according to court papers obtained Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. UC Irvine pharmaceutical sciences professor Rainer Reinscheid was upset after his teenage son hanged himself in an Irvine park in March after the boy had been disciplined by the assistant principal at University High School, prosecutors said. Copies of emails were filed in Orange County Superior Court and obtained by The Associated Press. In the messages that prosecutors say Reinscheid sent to himself and to his wife, he wrote how he wanted to shoot school administrators before killing himself. Authorities found no evidence that he tried to carry out the alleged plot. Prosecutors filed the emails to get the 48-year-old professor held without bail after he was charged with setting a series of small fires at the school, the assistant principal’s home and the park where his son died…

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Colleges freeze, reduce tuition as public balks at further price hikes

As an undergraduate at the University of California–Irvine, Christopher Campbell was almost forced to drop out by repeated double-digit increases in tuition—some in the middle of the academic year—to compensate for massive state budget cuts, says the Hechinger Report. Campbell ultimately made it through and is starting law school at UCI this fall. But he watched classmates driven out of college by the unpredictable mid-year price hikes. Now he’s pushing an amendment to the California constitution that would ban public universities from raising tuition for students after they’ve enrolled.

“Students and families are fed up,” Campbell says. “And that’s only going to get worse. As more and more students have to deal with these problems, it’s just going to keep building until the problem is fixed.”

After three decades of tuition hikes that have outpaced inflation and increases in family income, students, families, legislators and governing boards are demanding a halt…

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Samsung vies for spotlight ahead of iPhone launch

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest mobile-phone maker, said Friday it plans to show a new mobile device in late August, trying to stay in the consumer spotlight ahead of Apple’s expected release of the latest iPhone in September, the Associated Press reports. The move comes as Samsung is ensnarled in a closely-watched courtroom fight with Apple Inc. over smartphone and tablet patents. Each side is seeking billions of dollars in compensation or royalty payments. The South Korean company said the new device will be unveiled Aug. 29 in Berlin, two days before Europe’s biggest consumer electronics show, IFA. The company declined to give more details. But analysts said it is likely an update of the Galaxy Note, which has a screen bigger than smartphones but smaller than tablet computers and can be used with a stylus pen.

“It is time for the new Galaxy Note,” said Kim Young-chan, an analyst at Shinhan Investment. “Samsung’s strategy is to roll out a new product before Apple does, so there will be a new smartphone before the new iPhone.”

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Forbes Magazine ranks the best colleges in America

College is outrageously expensive. Four years at an elite, private school like the University of Chicago (#4) or Stanford (#3) costs more than a quarter of a million dollars, Forbes reports. A degree from a more affordable state school, like the College of William & Mary (#40) or the University of California, Berkeley (#50), still costs around $100,000, even for “in-state” students, who pay less in tuition. Is it worth it? For many students, the answer is probably not – unless they are accomplished enough to be accepted by one of the schools ranked near the top of our annual list of America’s 650 Top Colleges. The rankings, which are compiled exclusively for Forbes by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity, focus on the things that matter the most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, high graduation rates and low-levels of debt. They do not attempt to assess a school’s reputation, nor are they a measure of academic selectivity and we pointedly ignore any metrics that would encourage schools to engage in wasteful spending…

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Education jargon: What ‘no excuses’ and other terms really mean

Way back when I was a college student, one of my professors warned the class to avoid using jargon in our papers, says Joanne Yatvin, a vet­eran public school educator, author and past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, for the Washington Post. By jargon he meant big words of indeterminate meaning. Ever since then I’ve tried to follow his advice in my own writing and to be aware of jargon in the writing of others. But I’ve also come to recognize that there are different kinds of jargon and at least one of them is justifiable. That jargon is a “shorthand” used in the technical literature of specialized fields to refer to complicated entities or processes that readers are already familiar with. By using jargon the writers avoid giving long and unnecessary explanations. But what about other kinds of jargon? Apart from politics, the most contentious public issue today is education. It is a polarized field, where all kinds of governmental bodies, organizations, think tanks, and citizen groups hold strong views about how schools should change or be managed and whether or not it would be better to privatize them altogether. At the same time, most people have little knowledge about the realities of education, basing their opinions on personal experience, their worldviews, and what their leaders tell them. Thus, the flow of jargon is plentiful and forceful, seeking to turn the tide of public opinion irrevocably in a particular direction…

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